A new development paradigm is evolving. According to prominent development theorists such as Mark Duffield, a new, more direct relationship is emerging between the traditionally distinct fields of security and development. Due to the understanding that “development is ultimately impossible without stability and, at the same time, security is not sustainable without development,” new partnerships are forming between non-governmental humanitarian agencies (NGHAs), state governments, militaries, and private companies. The theory emphasizes that these “new multilateralisms” have arisen as a response to significant world changes resulting in part from the processes of globalization as well as the events of September 11, 2001.
In theory, and at first glance, the potential of these partnerships appears great. Combining previously incompatible viewpoints of security and development as well as providing a secure environment within which aid can be provided simultaneously with an ongoing conflict could address some of the complex issues that have arisen as a result of the “new wars.” However, part of the problem seems to be that these ideas have reached implementation stage without all of the possible ramifications having been examined.
One of the most prominent implementations of this new integration of security and development is the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) concept in Afghanistan. These small teams, composed of military, development, and political affairs staff, can be seen as a pilot project for this new theory. As such, they have been highly controversial and have sparked much debate within the political, military, and development fields.
This paper proposes to examine these PRTs within the context of the “merging of security and development,” as proposed by Duffield. A brief theoretical background will be provided followed, by a detailed examination of the PRT concept, its evolution and the different ways it has been implemented on the ground. As Canada’s own PRT team began its operation in August 2005, this is a relevant time to examine the functionality of the structure and its operations. Critical evaluation of the PRTs, from the viewpoints of both the NGHAs and the military, will be considered, followed by a broader evaluation of this version of the security/development interface. How is this concept indicative of the new directions development and security are heading? How does it fit into the bigger picture of global political interactions, including the changing nature of war, and motivations for international interventions? What does this mean for development and security in the South, and the North? Could this be a meaningful conception of international interventions in the future? The answers to these questions could lead to fundamental changes in the methods of international development and humanitarian assistance.
Background & Theoretical Basis
It is undeniable that the nature of conflict, and the resulting interventions by the international community, have changed. Over the past two decades, we have seen an increasing number of intrastate conflicts, many based on ethnicity or resources, rather than the previous interstate disputes over territoriality. According to Mark Duffield, a leading theorist in development, this is part and parcel of the currently dominant form of capitalism and the resulting economic globalization. He posits that globalization has led not to the creation of an inclusive global market, but to the deepening and strengthening of trade links between countries and regions already benefiting from the capitalist system – primarily the global North. The result of this has been an increasing exclusion of developing countries (the global South) from the world trade system, leading to a pronounced gap in wealth, both between the North and the South and within Northern and Southern nations. Conflict has arisen due to resource restriction in the South and this continued economic exclusion, faced by weak and often corrupt governments, has resulted in lengthy civil wars, failing states, and environments conducive to crime and violence.
Whether or not one accepts Duffield’s exclusion theory, it is clear that these failing states have become a source of growing security concern for the North. While purely humanitarian motivators have been considered, it is clear that this is not the sole deciding factor for the intervention of Northern militaries or governments in these conflicts, as the international community’s apathy towards the conflicts in Rwanda, Congo and Sudan have shown. In fact, since September 11, 2001, the main security concern for Northern governments has been their protection from terrorist activity. The economic frustration and essentially lawless environments in these failing Southern states present perfect “breeding grounds” for terrorists; according to King, the objectives of these new types of conflict are “to undermine state morale and governments and, therefore, the state system itself… the entire globe is a possible theatre of war and no place is secure from the new warfare.” It is obvious that this can present a serious threat to world security. The North has rationalized that intervention, reconstruction, and democratization of these states is the best way to combat terrorism and protect their own domestic security. In this way, development efforts have become the realm of not only humanitarian aid agencies, but also Northern governments and their militaries, which have realized that “underdevelopment has become dangerous.”
The types of fundamental changes required to transform these societies are beyond the capabilities or legitimacy of individual Northern governments. For this reason, the radical agenda of social transformation is embodied within Northern strategic networks and complexes that are bringing together governments, NGOs, military establishments and private companies in new ways.
Of course, there are numerous questions raised by these new cooperative efforts. Most important is their obvious divergence in motivations for providing aid and reconstruction. The power differential between the Northern state governments and militaries and the NGHAs is significant, and has resulted in the politicization of these efforts, supporting Northern goals of their own domestic security. It is difficult to imagine that these goals could coincide exactly with the goals of those in the societies being “reconstructed”, nor is it obvious how these aims could be implemented by a collaboration of military and NGHA staff, considering the conflict in their primary motivations. The NGHAs’ fear of humanitarian goals being overtaken by Northern security needs is real and well-founded.
In order to examine these concerns in a more concrete way, it is helpful to observe the implementation of one of these new strategic complexes. Our example here is found in the Provincial Reconstruction Team concept in Afghanistan. For reasons to be discussed in the next section, this idea has evolved to be one of the main strategies by the intervening international community used to further the reach of the established Afghani central government and re-establish security and the rule of law.
Provincial Reconstruction Teams:
Their Evolution & Implementation
The United States and their ‘Coalition of the Willing’ invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 under Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF.) The governing regime of the Taliban fell two months later. At this point, the OEF was transitioning from a more conventional military operation to a force focused on counter-insurgency and intelligence. “Information was critical to cue the special operations forces’ response in the anti-Al Qaeda mission, and the best means to get it was to lay a web of human sensors all over the country.” In order to achieve this effectively, infrastructure needed to be rebuilt throughout the country due to the extensive destruction caused by 25 years of civil war. Furthermore, the US was painfully aware that public support for its intervention, both with the Afghani locals and the US population at home, were critical for the success of this mission. As a result of these concerns, the U.S. established a Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force (CJCMOTF) in order to manage civil components of the intervention, and “Coalition Humanitarian Cells” (CHLCs) were deployed in several areas. These were the predecessors to the eventual development of the PRTs. The CHLCs were established with the following mission:
to ‘win hearts and minds’ among the Afghan population; to secure the support of local communities by showing ‘the benign face of the Coalition’; to jumpstart reconstruction efforts; and to gain positive publicity for the war effort in the United States.
Quite obviously, this strategy was much more tailored to achieving Coalition goals and creating positive public relations than it was to meeting reconstruction and humanitarian aid needs of the Afghan population. Reconstruction projects were limited to ‘quick impact’ projects such as building of schools and hospitals, digging of wells, and minor infrastructural repairs. This activity drew immediate fire from NGHAs, some of whom had been active in Afghanistan for years. CHLCs were duplicating their work, they said, and worse, doing so in civilian dress and vehicles, creating confusion amongst the local population as to humanitarian versus military roles. In protest, they refused to participate in discussions regarding planning and project selection for the CHLC teams. In November 2002 saw the US-led Coalition attempted to revitalize the concept and relations with the local and NGHA communities by creating Joint Reconstruction Teams (JRTs.) At the request of the Afghani government, these were renamed Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and despite their new name, these had quite similar goals to the CHLCs. Primary goals of the PRTs were established by the Office of the U.S. Ambassador in February 2003, and were: “To extend the influence of the central government outside of the capital; provide a security umbrella for NGHAs to operate; facilitate information sharing; and carry out small-scale reconstruction projects based on concise needs assessments and local consultations.”
The effort to extend international security presence outside Kabul was welcomed by the interim Afghani government, as they had been requesting this for some time in order to extend their reach and structures of control. However, these teams were small, consisting of between 50 and 150 personnel, of which 90 to 95% were military, drawn from civil affairs units, special forces, and army units. The other 5 to 10% consisted of civilian staff representing USAID, the US State Department, and the Department of Agriculture. A cabinet committee was developed in order to create policy and procedure for these teams, and an executive steering committee to supervise them. This executive committee is chaired by the Afghan minister of the Interior, and includes the commanders of the Coalition and ISAF (the UN-mandated international peacekeeping force that entered after the fall of the Taliban.)
Three PRTs were initially established as pilot projects by the US in Gardez, Bamiyan, and Kunduz provinces. Shortly thereafter, the UK established their own PRT in Mazar-i-Sharif. Germany took over control of the Kunduz team, and New Zealand took over the one in Bamiyan. Once NATO took over ISAF command in August 2003, it adopted the concept, and by October 2004, completed the first major deployment of PRTs, sending 9 teams out to the Northern provinces.
Interestingly, each country controlling a PRT was given significant freedom to establish priorities, projects, command structure, and coordination efforts. This has led to noticeable differences between the activities of specific PRTs. While the ethnic, economic, geographic, political, and security conditions vary widely between Afghan regions, “the differences in the main PRT models can be attributed more to the approach and vision of the individual implementing countries than a desire to customize the concept to meet local conditions.” The main focus in the literature has been the significant differences between the UK-led PRT in Mazar-i-Sharif, and the US-led PRTs in other provinces.
The US model has borne the brunt of the criticism levelled at the PRTs. Generally, this is a result of the US’s use of the PRT to pursue its own goals (OEF goals) as opposed to those of the local community and of Afghanistan as a whole. The US teams hand-picked their projects through their USAID staff, funding largely “hearts and minds” or “quick impact” projects intended to win the approval of local Afghanis. Much of their work was done out of uniform, until early 2004 when uniforms were donned in concession to intense criticism from NGHAs. Several incidents have highlighted the effects of the confusion and perhaps incompatibility between OEF’s military goals and the reconstruction goals of the PRTs. First, in Peetai village, Ghazni province in 2004, US rockets were fired in an attempt to target a terrorist or murderer, identified by local intelligence. However, this person was not there, and the rockets instead killed nine children and one adult male. Weeks later, when a PRT team arrived to provide reconstruction assistance and offer condolences, they were rejected by the villagers. It is easy to see how the local population could misunderstand the differentiation in function between US militaries, one undertaking aggressive military operations, while the other attempting to dig them a well. This confusion was perpetuated by the ambiguity of the PRT’s goals. Are all US military there to achieve OEF objectives such as intelligence and counterinsurgency? Why then are some (the PRT) attempting to provide reconstruction? A further example of the confusing role undertaken by the US PRT is exemplified in the following incident: “the delivery of aid by the US-led coalition in Zabul province was accompanied by leaflets distributed to civilians that called upon them to provide intelligence information or to face losing aid altogether.”
Conditionality of aid violates the basic principles of aid delivery as laid out by UN agreements in conflict situations. As OEF’s mandate is outside the UN parameters, it circumvented these principles seriously violating ethical principles of humanitarian aid and endangering the potential of NGHAs by politicizing the aid environment among Afghani civilians. As Mark Sedra notes: “It has become clear… that the goals of OEF and that of the wider Afghan reconstruction process can be incompatible.” The American PRTs goals are, as stated by General David Barno the Commander of U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan, to: “meld security and reconstruction, and extend the reach of the central government.” Given these stated goals, it is unclear, for instance, why OEF forces would have been distributing aid in the first place, this traditionally being the work of NGHAs; further, conditionality of aid and resulting conflict between Afghani people and PRTs could only serve to reduce local stability and security. In this way the US PRTs’ activities have been short-sighted and destructive, and may have negated any positive effects of their emphasis on “hearts and minds” activities designed to win over the Afghani people. Primary to the problems with the US PRT model is the lack of a clear mandate and mission, which they seem to have left purposely unclear in order to use the PRTs to their own military advantage.
The UK team in Mazar-i-Sharif, in contrast, has been much more successful in establishing relations and cooperation with the local NGHA community, although there is little information on the perception of any of the PRTs within the local Afghani communities they attempt to serve. The UK team is composed of 90 staff, predominantly military. Also included are civilian advisors from the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), their counterparts from the US State Department and USAID, a US military liaison officer, and a representative of the Afghani government. “Security sector reform, support to institution-building, and the promotion of economic development have been identified as its central priorities.”
Interestingly, within this UK-led PRT, both DfID and USAID have budgets to fund reconstruction projects. DfID, however, has made it clear that its budget should not be used towards “projects deemed to be better serviced through the capabilities of NGOs” and rather have geared its reconstruction efforts towards security-sector reform (SSR)-oriented projects. This has included renovation of police stations, government buildings, and judiciary buildings, as well as training programs for police officers and office equipment for government offices. USAID’s budget, in contrast, has continued to be spent on infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, and roads, tasks which are usually left to NGOs with experience in local needs assessment.
Of course, the UK-led PRT has gone uncriticized; it too has conducted “hearts and minds” activities such as setting up a 3-day medical camp, without consultation of NGHAs already providing similar services in the region. Furthermore, in efforts to establish itself as a mediator between local factions, this PRT has had extensive communication with local warlords, which some claim could make it vulnerable to manipulation by these groups.
Despite criticism of these PRT models, both have seen moderate success in establishing security in their respective regions of activity; in fact, the sheer fact of their presence in these areas and the conduction of regular patrols has led to local stability. Local police and Afghan National Army personnel have expressed positive views of the PRTs’ support and willingness to share information. In this respect, the PRTs have partially achieved their goal.
Overall, it is unclear how successful these teams have been in achieving greater human security in Afghanistan. Much of the criticism of the PRT model has come from the NGHAs active in Afghanistan, who have a number of problems with the structure, activities and coordination of the PRTs. The next section will review the main concerns with the PRT model, the resulting implications for human security and the potential for the North to achieve its goal of creating a stable, secure and democratic Afghanistan.
Evaluation of THE PRT model in the context of human security
The critical problem with the PRT concept as a whole is its role confusion. What is it there to do? We know that there is certainly a need for cooperation between military forces and aid providers in the context of these new attempts at total national reconstruction of failing states. However, who should be responsible for what? Whose goals should and will take precedence? Who will take control, and what will be the structure of command? As the PRT concept is really a test run for this type of interaction, conflict and problems were an inevitability. However, the question is whether these problems are just “growing pains” that can be worked out into a functional solution for all, or intrinsic to their link with Northern political and security goals, and thus useless towards the achievement of true human security and development for local people. A survey of the main concerns of NGHAs regarding PRTs should reveal a sense of the issues at hand.
First and foremost, the NGHAs have aggressively criticized the PRTs for their “blurring of the lines” between military and aid work. In examination of the incidents detailed earlier, this has proven to be a real problem, and can affect the effectiveness of both the NGHAs and the PRTs in achieving their respective goals. Afghanis’ confusion as to the role of international actors in their communities risks their own security, that of PRT staff, and that of humanitarian aid workers. Often noted is the murder in Afghanistan of five aid workers with Médecins Sans Frontières, after which the NGO ceased all operations in Afghanistan. A representative of the group claiming responsibility for the murders was quoted later as: “We killed them because they worked for the Americans against us using the cover of aid work. We will kill more foreign aid workers.” While it remains unclear as to whether this claim was related to the confusion caused by PRT teams, it is obvious that clear distinctions between military operations and aid providers are absolutely necessary in order to maintain a secure environment. Furthermore, the NGHAs have pointed out, development and aid activities are beyond the expertise of the military staff undertaking them.
While some military members may have relevant technical skills, they do not have sufficient understanding of local culture and political/social dynamics to be able to foresee the consequences of their interventions, which could undercut longer-term reconstruction goals and otherwise be contrary to the interests of intended beneficiaries. This is a very important point. While it is true that development theory has yet to discover a “perfect” model for development projects, it must be conceded that NGHAs have a better grasp on development theory, including past errors and lessons learned, than the military. For this reason they are much better equipped to design, undertake and evaluate development projects. An example of this lack of understanding of local conditions was found in an aid airdrop by US forces. The meals provided were one-meal packages, when families were in need of basic supplies such as rice and oil; furthermore, the rations were dropped into the fields, causing people to risk landmine injuries in order to retrieve them. It is assumed that the airdrops were done with the best of intentions, but inappropriate aid or causing unnecessary risk to the population it serves is counterproductive and easily avoided though knowledge and experience with these populations. Furthermore, while their motives are not beyond question, it can be assumed that NGHAs’ mandates are more likely to be geared to local people’s benefit than those of a military force employed to ensure Northern security.
Save the Children UK, in their study of PRTs in Afghanistan, has established the following causal relationship between human security in Afghanistan and the PRT activity.
Despite the NGHAs’ criticisms, and as is clear from this model, there is a definite positive relationship between the activities of PRTs and the security of local Afghanis. In addition, NGHAs have identified clear areas where these activities contribute negatively to human security. In essence, the conclusion has been that while most of the positive effects of PRT activities on humanitarian security come from activities in the areas of security, reconstruction and expanding central authority, most of the negative consequences of PRT activities for humanitarian security follow from PRT relief activities (including ‘hearts and minds’ activities and ‘quick-impact projects.’)
It should be noted at this point that the opinions of the NGHAs have been given significance throughout this paper’s evaluation of the PRTs’ success. This is primarily as a result of accessibility of this information and the proximity of the NGHAs’ relationship to the PRT activities. However, this comes with the recognition that NGHAs are not without their own organizational priorities, which of course do not consist solely of selfless interests in humanitarian needs. Were the military to overtake the bulk of humanitarian operations, the NGHAs would quite simply be out of a job. In addition, the lack of international intervention in humanitarian conflicts has given the NGHAs considerable power and freedom in their relief operations. Besides their resentment of this lengthy inaction in the face of what they see as dire humanitarian need, the NGHAs may understandably resent the sudden intervention and overtaking of what they see as their professional space. For this reason, caution should be exercised when evaluating the NGHA reaction to PRT interventions.
Nevertheless, recommendations on the part of these NGHAs have been extensive and are certainly useful in the re-evaluation of the PRT concept. Drawn from documents by InterAction, Save the Children UK, and Mark Sedra, the main recommendations have been:
1. PRTs should focus their efforts on their areas of comparative advantage, namely, security. This is beyond the expertise of the NGHAs and absolutely necessary for them to provide adequate assistance to the local populations. Furthermore, this is one of the main stated goals of the PRT and of the North’s intervention in the first place. One suggested area that the PRTs could be of much use in achieving goals of stability, security and extension of the Afghani government is in security sector reconstruction (SSR).
2. Missions should be clearly defined, avoiding duplication of aid work undertaken by NGHAs and other organizations.
3. NGHAs should be consulted during the setup of PRTs as well as during their continued activity, in order to facilitate communication, avoid conflict, and take advantage of their knowledge of local culture and situations.
4. PRT staff, both military and civilian, should receive training in order to ensure their understanding of local culture and tradition.
5. Clear exit or transition strategies should be established to ensure the continued stability and security of the local population and the NGHAs who remain.
6. Expansion of the military component of the PRTs should be considered in order that true security and stability can be ensured.
The Canadian team has had the advantage of being aware of these recommendations and problems with previous PRTs before the implementation and design of their own PRT. For this reason, the expectations of the international community and NGHAs should be higher. In fact, it does appear that Canada has taken some of these considerations into account. Canadian implementation of the PRT model, beginning this month, August 2005, appears to be following the UK model more closely than the American. This could result in significant differences in effects, as the Canadians will be taking over a US-run PRT in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, considered to be the most insecure and dangerous area in the country. Canada’s priorities in its operations are to reinforce the authority of the Afghan government in and around Kandahar and help stabilize and rebuild the region. It will also help monitor security, promote Afghan government policies and priorities with local authorities, and facilitate security sector reforms. Canada’s explicit focus is security sector reform, and this is prevalent in all Canadian PRT components, including the RCMP and CIDA operations. The Canadian team will consist of 250 members, more than double the size of the US PRT before it. This will include one CIDA representative, two officials from Foreign Affairs, and two RCMP officers, emphasizing Canada’s “3D” approach to foreign policy: Defence, Diplomacy, and Development.
While this seems like a promising step in the effectiveness of the PRT concept, the larger questions still remain. If there is one thing to be learned from six decades of North-South development policy, it is that true development can never be achieved when the underlying aim is the North’s benefit. Colonialism, neo-colonialism, modernisation theory – all of this experience has taught us that Northern attempts to gain from “developing” Southern countries has not led to sustainable progress, and further, that it is egotistical and counterproductive to attempt to rebuild developing countries in the image of the North. At first glance, creating stability and development in Afghanistan seems a laudable goal on the part of the US and its allies. Yet, in practice it appears that the development undertaken, at least on the part of the PRTs, has been superficial and primarily to achieve positive public relations for the intervention itself, not for the Afghani people. While Canada’s implementation of the PRT does appear to be an improvement over others’ attempts, it remains that “Canada’s overarching goal is to prevent Afghanistan from relapsing into a failed state that gives terrorist and terrorist organizations a safe haven.” In fact, Canada’s International Policy Statement has been criticized on the grounds that it exaggerates the terrorist threat: “Canadian foreign policy should be clear that the complex conflicts raging outside Canada are primarily human catastrophes – not threats to Canada’s security or potential harbours for terrorists.” Furthermore, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) notes, Canada’s International Policy Statement has proposed greater integration between the 3 D’s, which is going too far: “Defence, diplomacy and development have separate but related goals; the notion of a ‘three block war’ for the Canadian military potentially conflates support for local peoples’ self-determined development paths with ‘hearts and mind’ operations.”
Unfortunately, it appears that the merging of development and security will need to learn again the painful lessons development policy has endured throughout its experience. Realism prevails: the North will not cease its protection of its own rights and security over those of others, and thus the development of Afghanistan, and other failing states under the auspices of ensuring global stability, will be manipulated to ensure the North’s benefit. Until we allow these failing states the freedom to determine their own path of development, instability and human insecurity will prevail.
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 Sedra, 5.
 S. Klingebiel & K. Roehder. “Development-Military Interfaces: New Challenges in Crises and Post-Conflict Situations,” Working Paper for German Development Institute, <http://www.die-gdi.de/die_homepage.nsf/6f3fa777ba64bd9ec12569cb00547f1b/3c1afada7a2d054cc1256e1400333faa/$FILE/Englisch-Final-EZ-Militär-Komplett.pdf> (10 August 2005).
 Sedra, 7.
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 STC, 39-40.
 Sedra, 7.
 Sedra, 8.
 STC, 26.
 STC, 2004; Sedra, 2004.
 STC, 35.
 STC, 34.
 See Duffield, “NGO.”
 See STC, 2004, Sedra, 2004, & InterAction, 2003
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 CCIC, 5.
 CCIC, 7.